Management of Psychosocial Distress by Oncologists

Department of Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative Care, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, 44 Binney St., Boston, MA 02115, USA.
Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.) (Impact Factor: 2.41). 09/2009; 60(8):1132-4. DOI: 10.1176/
Source: PubMed


Little is known about the nature of psychosocial care delivered by oncologists. The goal of this study was to survey oncologists about their management of psychosocial distress, referencing the National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines.
A random sample of 1,000 oncologists were sent an e-mail requesting their participation in an online survey; nonrespondents were sent the survey through postal mail. Regression analyses were conducted to identify independent predictors of care.
Forty-six percent (448 of 965) of oncologists responded. Practice locations included: community (63%), cancer center (25%), and hospital (7%). Respondents estimated that over one-third of their patients (mean+/-SD=38%+/-22%) experience psychosocial distress warranting intervention, although only 225 of 447 (50%) indicated having mental health services affiliated with their practice. Nearly half (212 of 447, 47%) reported only initiating a referral for psychosocial services, and 214 of 447 (48%) reported both making a referral and starting psychiatric medications, mainly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and benzodiazepines.
Most oncologists delivered some level of psychosocial care, although only half had affiliated mental health services.

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Available from: Lidia Schapira, Dec 24, 2013
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    • "These oncologists estimated that over one - third of their patients experienced psychosocial distress , although only 50% of oncologists indicated that they had available mental health services for evaluation or treatment ( Muriel et al . , 2009 ) . Approximately half ( 47% ) of the oncologists indicated that they initiated a mental health referral , and a similar percentage ( 48% ) indicated they initiated a referral and medications , primarily antidepressants ."
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    • "Data are lacking on psychotropic medication use. Since many people are prescribed anxiolytics particularly benzodiazepines, during cancer treatment (Muriel et al., 2009), these medications could have affected symptom severity scores. Finally, although GMM is more robust with large samples, the present sample size (n=252) is at the lower limit necessary for meaningful, reliable estimates of latent classes (cf. "
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